Monday, May 05, 2008

Colouring tips for beginners

I wrote the following tips to help a friend colour her comics in Photoshop. I don't know if she'll actually find them helpful but if you, like me, have a slapdash attitude to colouring comics that basically comes down to "once I've filled all the white bits, I'm done", maybe this will help.

(PC users substitute the world 'ctrl' for 'apple')


1. Start with a 2-bit image so it is just black and white pixels, then convert to RGB or CMYK mode. You can either rub out your pencil lines or tit about with the threshold value on your scanner.

2. Select all the white areas with the magic wand (deselect 'contiguous'), then hide selection edges (View > Show > Selection edges) (it is useful to set a shortcut for this - apple-comma is usually free)

3. Fill away with the paint bucket, with 'anti-alias' deselected! I recommend only using colours out of the CMYK palette with one eye on eventually printing things.

4. Use a thin pencil tool line to join up any gaps in your linework as you go round. Deselect and reselect after you draw a black line as you will inevitably hit the black and accidentally colour the little line you just drew.

5. Keep deselecting and reselecting the white as you go, in the end you will have little isolated islands of white selected and often you can just use the square tool to plough colour over them.

6. It is fastest to learn and use keyboard shortcuts so you can go round quickly, clicking menus is annoying and they get in the way

I - eyedropper
B - brush/pencil
G - paintbucket
Apple-D - deselect all
W - magic wand (set tolerance to 3, turn anti-aliasing off)
D - default colours (black foreground, white background)
X - switch foreground and background colours
U - shape tool (set to 'fill pixels)

I hope this saves you the hundreds of hours I wasted before I reached this way of doing things! If you are conscientious about colour, you probably have your own way of doing things, but it probably takes you more than 45 minutes per page!


saragwyn said...

OK, this is behind the times, but:
Canadian T-Shirt!!!! I want one!!!

Jacob Ezra said...

Thanks for this John--

This is a very simple tutorial to follow. With all due respect to Jeph Jacques of QC, his colouring tutorial seems much more involved and time-consuming. Which may explain why his comics, unlike yours, so often don't get posted until the wee hours of the morning (EST).

John A said...


Jeph is a good man, and thorough, but his techniques sometimes seem a bit mad to me. In the end though, you have to do what you're comfortable with. I hadn't read that tutorial before, he has some interesting ways of doing things.

I use a Cintiq like Jeph but I can't use Photoshop to draw the artwork, it's quite a punishing program to draw in. I use Manga Studio, which has some very nice natural drawing tools.

Liam said...

Goshdarn, this is information I could really have used the other day for your contest!

Mind you, my scanner is broken also, so...mayhaps not.

This is great though, I've always struggled with practically every aspect of photoshop.

Hermit Guy said...

I find it incredible that artists like Jeph Jacques and Meredith Gran don't have a buffer of comics ready to post. When I visit a site in the morning I expect the new comic to be there. Why put yourself under that kind of pressure? It's not as though they're topical.

Lucent said...

That tutorial is -wacky-

I can't imagine working in that manner, but I might give it a shot to see how it goes. I finished those pages I did for Feats of Strength in about an hour each page from blank document to finished.

Your techniques are like hebrew to me, but I am intrigued.

Toni Jover said...

thanks for the tips!

coolingstar9 said...

Wow, you really have the knowledge and skill, keep it up.
Have a nice day.
From: coolingstar9

Tom Crowley said...

You want to grab yourself a tasty bite of this auto-flatting programme:

Ignore the grocer's apostrophes on the website and it's pretty dang useful. I had trouble making it work properly so I consulted Mister Dean Trippe's useful tutorial here:

Jen Dockter said...

Yeah Jeph's tutorial only really works if you draw and colour the comic all at once in photoshop. I also have problems drawing in photoshop (well unless I have an unlimited amount of time). I actually use a method very similar to John's; or at least I did before my scanner bed got covered in dried glue.